School of Education iPad Initiative Gets Started

Take over 170 free and purchased apps, add 30 iPads plus 1 laptop and 1 security cart, mix in lots and lots of app research and you get: The School of Education’s iPad Initiative.  With more and more K-12 schools purchasing iPads or tablets, our goal is to provide an opportunity for faculty and pre-service teachers to explore, experience and evaluate the potential (or limitations) of these tools and apps directly.

As of today, Apple states, “The App Store on iPhone and iPod touch has more than 20,000 educational apps for all kinds of learners, teaching them everything from science to sign language.”  But did you know that apps are defined as “educational” by the developers? “More than 20,000 apps for all kinds of learners,” is a noble statement for marketing, but the buyer must beware since there is currently no standard or requirement for defining an app as “educational.”  This is potentially good – offering outside-the-box thinking, an opportunity for creativity and alternative ways for all of us, not just students, to access information or gain knowledge.  And for many, a 99-cent or a $2.99 purchase to try an app is a drop in the bucket.  But for schools with limited resources, the little expenditures multiplied by all the tablets can quickly add up. 

Luckily there are a tremendous number of websites and blogs created by educators and researchers who share lists of recommended apps: Apps in Education, Teachers With Apps, iPad in Schools, EduTeacher, iPads in Schools Live Binder, Wake County Public School System Wiki/iPads and iPods in the Classroom to name a few.  I also appreciate the bloggers who give a list of criteria for the review, so that parents, teachers and school administrators have a good sense of what they are getting before they drop the buck.  For example, Tony Vincent’s Learning in Hand and the Children’s App Review.

But in the School of Education, we wanted to take the evaluation of educational apps into our own hands – literally.  In some of our teacher education courses, our faculty and students will be borrowing the iPads during scheduled courses. First to play and explore, then to evaluate and recommend ways to integrate into a curriculum, but ultimately to assess if the app or the overall tool offers a value added opportunity for teaching and learning.

I’d love to hear from you if you have an example to share about the value of an “educational” app in a classroom setting or what criteria you use to define "educational."  We will be expanding our project (as funding permits).  Stay tuned.

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